The government has welcomed the move by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to start special deposition proceedings against Felicien Kabuga and Protais Mpiranya, two of the most wanted Genocide suspects still on the run.
The move by the ICTR follows a motion by the prosecution requesting the tribunal to start hearing charges and assess evidence and cross examine witnesses, pinning Kabuga and Mpiranya, so that the evidence is preserved and archived for future use.
This means that the ICTR Prosecution would go ahead, beginning May 16, to press charges on the two men, present evidence and arraign witnesses so that the evidence can be preserved until the two men are eventually apprehended.
Speaking at a news conference, yesterday, the Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, welcomed the ICTR’s decision, noting that it was a practical way to ensure that justice would, at some point, take its course.
“This is a good decision. It is a practical way of solving issues and it is encouraging. As a government, we are happy that the evidence against these wanted men is going to be preserved,” the Minister said.
“It can take one, ten or twenty years to arrest them, but this evidence will remain fresh awaiting them. We are aware that as years go by, witnesses’ age or die, evidence wears away and soon the ICTR will close shop. This is a good and timely move,” Karugarama said.
Karugarama said that a public notice had been issued by the ICTR announcing the proceedings and called upon all Rwandans who can testify, against or for the two men, to show up at the ICTR.
He noted that the families of the two suspects had been informed and could follow the proceedings. A Kenyan lawyer has been appointed to represent Kabuga’s interests.
Karugarama noted that if the ICTR closes before the suspects arrested, the UN would name a competent court to try them. He added that Rwanda would be willing to take on the cases, and any others that may remain.
“We are always ready; we have been prepared for the last five years to receive these cases. We have always said that everything is in place so it’s up to the UN to decide,” Karugarama said.
Judge Vagn Joensen, who will preside over the proceedings, said in the scheduling order that the session would continue until the depositions of all the prosecution witnesses are recorded.
“The proceedings will take place from Monday through Thursday each week, with a break during the week of June 6 to 10, 2011,” he said.
Kabuga, the main financier of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, has been on the run since an Interpol Red Notice was issued against him in 2001.
Prosecution also seeks to safeguard evidence against Augustin Bizimana, the former Minister of Defence of the genocidal government and Mpiranya, former Commander of the Presidential Guard.
The ICTR Prosecutor, Hassan Boubacar Jallow, on February 7, 2011, filed the motions for the taking of deposition pursuant to Rule 71 bis of Rules of Procedure and Evidence.
Rule 71 bis states, among others, that; “If within a reasonable time, a warrant of arrest has not been executed, the Prosecutor may submit a request to the President that evidence relating to the indictment be preserved for a further trial by special deposition recorded in a proceeding conducted by a single Judge.”
The requests are the first of their kind in the ICTR history.
Karugarama called upon the countries that harbour the suspects to cooperate in apprehending them.